Custom orthotics are commonly used to correct the way a foot moves. They fit inside your shoes and are shaped or contoured in such a way that corrects the position of your foot. Custom orthotic inserts correct things such as flat feet and feet that roll in, providing arch support to correct the shape and feet.
There are various types of orthotics available which fall into two broad catering categories – off the shelf orthotics and custom orthotics. Most people can benefit from wearing supportive footwear. In cases where the footwear is not supportive, off the shelf orthotics can be useful to provide arch support. Of course, they have the disadvantage that they are not customized to your feet. Custom orthotics are specifically designed for the shape of your feet and to suit your particular situation, generally providing much better outcomes for the patient than off the shelf varieties of orthotics.
In more specific terms, custom orthotics can be made from different materials, some quite rigid providing a firm foundation for the foot, while others are more flexible. Your podiatrist will be able to advise which type of custom orthotic will most effectively treat foot pain, sore feet and pain in the lower limbs. The choice around which type of orthotic will also depend on the activities you do – for example, various sporting activities.
Most people seek out the services of a podiatrist at a foot and nail clinic after they have experienced recurring pain in their feet, heels or lower limbs. If you are experiencing recurring pain and haven’t had any impact injury such as a fracture, then a consultation with a podiatrist or sports podiatrist is warranted.
When you first visit your podiatrist or sports podiatrist they will take a full history of your symptoms and conduct a thorough examination. In some cases, an x-ray may be needed. Once your podiatrist has diagnosed the problem they will make recommendations around foot pain treatment, heel pain treatment, lower limb pain treatment and any corrective measures that may be needed.
Not everyone who goes to a podiatrist needs custom orthotics but if you do need custom orthotics your podiatrist will either use prescription orthotics or make some customised orthotics to suit your feet. If your podiatrist is making custom orthotics for you they will most likely make a mould from the shape of your foot. This is not an invasive process and is not painful. From the mould your podiatrist will build orthotics for you that fit the shape of your feet perfectly, providing optimum correction and support. Delivery times for your orthotics tend to vary but you will need to come back for a second appointment to collect them.
Once you have your new custom orthotics it is recommended that you phase in their use gradually to give your feet time to adjust. Start wearing them around the home for a couple of hours a day and gradually build up the number of hours you wear them per day. They will feel unnatural at first but eventually, you will get used to them and they will become second nature.
Sports podiatrists also use custom orthotics to relieve stress on the lower limbs, correct gait and to reduce pain. The process is much the same as seeing a general podiatrist, with the focus a little more on sporting performance. Often a sports podiatrist will give you a range of exercises as a complementary therapy to custom orthotics.
Your podiatrist will want to see you periodically over the first few weeks to check the custom orthotics are achieving the desired outcome. Once you have got used to them, annual checks are recommended. However, in the case of children, visits will need to be more regular as the children’s bones and muscles grow. Likewise, as feet increase in length, your child’s feet will need to be re-measured and a new set of custom orthotics made. Embarking on custom orthotics as a course of treatment in children requires a high level of commitment as children continue to grow. However, the results are well worth it and will set your child up for pain-free limbs in adulthood – assuming nothing else happens of course! The key to this success is early intervention.
Custom orthotics last between 3-4 years in adults. Off the shelf orthotics tend to last a lot less – typically 12-18 months. This makes the investment in custom orthotics more financially attractive over the longer term.
If you or your child have been experiencing foot or lower leg pain and you would like to investigate the treatments available, give our team at Suncoast Podiatry a call. We have foot and nail clinics right across the Sunshine Coast making access very easy.